I reflect on the two cancers I had in my thirties as a tremendous gift.
A gift for then and a gift for now because what I learned in the midst of cancer is still applicable to the coronavirus that faces us.
I didn’t think too much about my cancer.
At the time of my diagnosis and treatments, my six children were all under the age of 10. They needed my attention. And quite frankly that was a gift too that kept me from being absorbed looking at medical articles on the internet for survival rates based on my stage of disease. Yes, the first days of not knowing what we were dealing with were topsy-turvey. I don’t say that there weren’t doubts and fears, there were. As a Christian, I knew the certain end all of us face and my own conviction of life after death.
At my initial appointment with the oncology staff, the patient advocate nurse asked if I was okay because I was so calm throughout the appointment. I rested in the hope of my eternity but also faced the brutal reality of the disease which was already doing damage. I had to pull it together and keep life going in the here and now.
I focused on gratitude.
I wrote a list detailing the many ways God was benefitting me in the midst of this life-altering disruption.
- I lived in a time when the treatment options were far greater than even a decade earlier.
- I had nearby access to the top medical facilities in the Pacific.
- I was living in Hawaii where:
- the drive to the hospital was gorgeous.
- multiple kid-friendly beaches were near.
- almost every day was paradise with weather, flora, and fauna just to name a few.
- I had a Navy community that was ready to help out when I wasn’t well enough to make a meal or take my kids out on a field trip.
- I had a dear friend who attended me to every one of my chemo treatments.
- During my chemo treatments, I was in a line of chairs with many others and their stories grounded me in the truth that my suffering was not unique.
Courage is knowing you are indestructible until God’s purposes for you are complete.
I firmly rested in my experience with God.
I had a catchphrase I would tell myself and others whenever I hit some sort of snag. A trip to the Emergency Room, losing all my hair, a hospitalization for fevers of unknown origin. I would say, “I’m God’s favorite.”
I knew that God cared for me. He was looking to help me. He was present with me in everything I faced. I experienced life without lack.
So during my cancer journey, while I spent time at the hospital in both emergency and non-emergency situations, I spent more time at home with my children, making supper when I could, going to church when my immune system was strong, sitting on the beach, playing with my baby, praying, teaching homeschool, listening to music, singing —- not huddled down worried about my children losing a mother. My body failed in its fallen state but cancer could not destroy the part of me that would not be dominated – my soul.
Those lessons are good to review in times like these.
Written by Mary Gunther